Budget Alternatives to a Sliding Table Saw

If a slider's not in the budget, what are the alternatives? Cabinetmakers discuss table saw attachments, vertical panel saws, and track saw packages. April 6, 2011

No sliders or CNCs for me! Well, the reality is that I would dearly like to have either or both of those machines. The other reality is that I'm looking to do a limited amount of work to supplement my retirement income.

My next project is a fairly complex kitchen with face frame cabinets, and I want to improve on the abilities of my 52" UniSaw. I want to add an Excalibur slider to my saw for this and other one off projects ahead of me. My first thought is to get the smaller of the two sizes that Excalibur offers (the #50-SLT40P) which will cut 49" if the cross cut fence is at the rear of the table. The SLT40P is a new model, so there may not be much experience with it.

Is the Excalibur stuff any good? What are your thoughts about the small vs. the larger sized units? Are there other options I should consider?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor P:
I have had a larger size for many years. Works great. It will cut a panel square across 48 inches. Also works well to cut on an angle. Well worth the money.

From contributor J:
Ditto, get the big one. Used it for our small shop for about 6 years and it got us to a point we could buy a CNC!

From contributor M:

For American style cabinetry with face frames, it is good. You will not see an improvement in production or speed. The reality is that you will still be ripping panels the same way and only use the slide for some cross cuts. It is easier on the operator and will reduce mistakes from bad cuts. So to be a pessimist, I would say spending a couple thousand or more on something that takes up space and adds little or no productivity is a bad idea. That money could go to buying a different machine or shop accessory that will increase productivity.

However, when I was using a Unisaw to make plywood boxes for face frame cabinets, I would have loved to have an Excalibur.

From contributor S:
As you are writing about supplementing your retirement income and that you are receptive to other options, I propose an entirely different approach - the Festool TS55 plunge cut saw. I don't have any experience with the Excalibur, but I understand that the bigger unit is better, but that it takes up a huge footprint, is not inexpensive, and still requires that you manhandle sheet goods onto your table saw.

I'm a 57 year old, 30+ year cabinetmaker who has no concept of retirement. Face frame cabinetry is my specialty. I work alone and have been very happy stacking my cabinet plywood needs on a work station and then easily and accurately cross cutting and ripping my way down the stack with the TS55. I don't miss handling each 3/4" sheet onto the table saw. Once my parts are in manageable sizes, I don't hesitate to take the sides or the shelves, for example, to the table saw for the final rips. I do repetitive cross cuts at my compound miter Makita table. All these cuts can be done with the TS55 and accessories, but I use it to augment my stationary tools and ease the heavy lifting. The TS55 is a very accurate and user friendly tool that has changed the way I work without compromise. I would not be making this recommendation if you were growing your business, running a full time shop with a crew but as it sounds like you are scaling down, the Festool TS55 is probably worth a look.

From the original questioner:
Thanks to everyone who responded. I appreciate the comments on the Excalibur slider, albeit the larger unit. When I consider the amount of work that I am likely going to do, as well as the footprint issue, I have decided to go with the smaller sized slider.

Regarding the Festool TS55 track saw, I hadn't mentioned it in my original post, but I already have a track saw system. A few years back I bought a Eurekazone track saw system. Although I would probably buy the Festool today if I didn't already have the Eurekazone, I plan to use it the same way that contributor M suggests. First, break down the sheet with the track saw for easier handling, and then cross cut smaller pieces on the Excalibur. It's not too likely that I will need to cross cut anything greater than 28 inches, but if I do, I can still move the fence on the Excalibur to get up to a 49" cross cut, or I can use the track saw.

Hopefully I will have a kitchen project to show off in the gallery section, one day soon!

From contributor M:
I like your plan. In a small shop where the owner is doing most or all the work, comfort and ease of work is a very important factor.

From contributor E:
At some point I will certainly upgrade to a vertical panel saw. But for the last 8 or 9 years I've made do with the smaller Excalibur slider. I can't recommend using it in the rear position; I've tried it and it's honestly too much effort and time to make the switch, and it's not practical for everyday use. I think I had about 27" +/- capacity on mine when it was on the Uni, which is good for most cabinet needs.

One thing you can do, however, is mount it farther forward than its normal position. This will allow for a much deeper cut. I think I can get roughly 37" on mine now, though I did put it on a bigger saw. The disadvantage is the sled rails are in your way whenever you want to step to the left. For me it was worth it, as I often need to cut things up to 30", but it is kind of a pain until you get used to it being there.

From contributor D:
You might also check out the Exactor sliding tables. The Exactor guy was originally the Excalibur guy - he sold Excalibur and started Exactor. I've got one of the original 60" Excaliburs and have been happy with the accuracy and the exponential increase in productivity. I'm happy enough that I'd replace my Chinese flip-flop boring machine before considering a slider.

For 90 degree cuts, I find that having the fence in the rear position is faster/easier. With a pivot at the rear outboard corner the rip/crosscut changeover takes seconds. A laminate top is also highly recommended.

From contributor A:
I've used an Exc. attachment for about ten years now, and am just upgrading to an SCMI short stroke slider. The sliding attachment has always been on a dedicated cross-cut saw, and in this arrangement it has served me well. There is no way that it would fly on a saw that I need to rip and crosscut on. I also feel that you are ruining any advantage (in terms of accuracy) that this attachment might give you by ripping with your track-saw. Simply using what you've got, you could square up your plywood with the track-saw, then rip and crosscut on the Unisaw using the fence: tradeshow style! Never mind, get a vertical panel saw for plywood and a powerfeed for the unisaw. Money well spent.